- The Miami Herald reported a Venezuelan ring is accused of stealing over $800,000 in stimulus checks.
- The FBI has been investigating the ring since January, which was also charged with identity theft.
- Biden has not yet said if more stimulus checks are on the way amidst calls from Democrats urging him to do so.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Since the start of the pandemic, the government has distributed three rounds of stimulus checks to Americans in order to help prompt economic and financial recovery. But a ring of Venezuelans might have prevented hundreds of people from receiving those checks.
The Miami Herald reported on Wednesday that Venezuelans living in South Florida and Mexico have stolen over $800,000 in stimulus checks since the start of the pandemic, according to federal authorities. The feds have so far charged Jesus Felipe Linares Andrade for conspiring to steal government money, along with identity theft, and prosecutors in South Florida said Linares could have as many as four other “co-conspirators.”
Linares was arrested in May and pleaded not guilty after being caught in an undercover FBI operation in which he, and his conspirators, stole checks in South Florida and Mexico and created fake IDs to correspond with the names of actual US taxpayers.
According to the Herald, an FBI informant met with one of the conspirators in January to discuss cashing about 30 stimulus checks totaling to $36,000. Then, in April, Linares met with two FBI informants to make arrangements to pick up a package with 416 more stimulus checks worth about $249,000.
The meetings continued through April and eventually totaled to over $800,000 in stolen stimulus payments.
“During the meeting [in April], Linares placed an envelope in the vehicle containing over $150,000 in stolen U.S. Treasury checks and over 30 identification documents,” the affidavit wrote. “The identification documents consisted of copies of driver’s licenses, including Florida driver’s licenses. Some of the names on the driver’s license matched the names on the checks.”
Linares is being held without bond.
Although President Joe Biden has not yet announced whether more stimulus checks are en route, studies have shown that the benefits of stimulus checks are significant, with two more checks having the ability to lift an additional 12 million Americans out of poverty.
“The pandemic has served as a stark reminder that families and workers need certainty in a crisis,” House Democrats wrote in a letter. “They deserve to know they can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. They should not be at the mercy of constantly shifting legislative timelines and ad hoc solutions.”